Scottish Labour History Society Newsletter

March 2024

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The 2024 Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture
The 2024 Ian MacDougall Memorial Lecture will explore the lives of Peeblesshire textile workers and the process of telling their stories. It will take place on 4 April at the National Library of Scotland.
Border Mills: Lives of Peeblesshire Textile Workers is a new book based on a series of oral history interviews the late Ian MacDougall made with mill workers between 1996 and 2004. Charting a period of immense change across all aspects of textile manufacturing in the Scottish Borders, the book documents the lives and work of a generation who lived through both World Wars and worked in an industry in flux, with new innovations in mechanised processes and fibres.
Caroline Milligan, Researcher at the European Ethnological Research Centre, Edinburgh University, will discuss how she returned to Ian’s research as editor and recount the process of transforming a collection of oral history recordings from the archives into a publication. The book, published in collaboration with National Museums Scotland, will be available to purchase at the event.
Following Caroline’s talk, The Mills of Tweedale Project will give a presentation on their new oral history project, which aims to preserve the contemporary history and heritage of the Tweeddale textile industry. Launched in March 2023, this is a partnership between Peebles Civic Society and Peebles Library, Museum and Gallery, the Innerleithen Community Trust and the Walkerburn Community Development Trust. Tickets for the lecture are bookable via… but some places are reserved for SLHS members. Please contact Stewart Maclennan via to book a reserved SLHS place.

Calling Academic Teaching Staff! The Ian MacDougall Essay Prize deadline approaches
The Ian MacDougall Essay Prize honours the memory of Dr Ian MacDougall (1933-2020), founding secretary of the Scottish Labour History Society and the Scottish Working People’s History Trust. It encourages high standards of scholarship in those studying Scottish labour history, and aims to promote the study and recording of labour and popular history in Scotland. The prize is awarded annually, the winner to receive: [i] a cash prize of £400; [ii] publication of the winning essay in Scottish Labour History; [iii] a year’s subscription to Scottish Labour History. The deadline for entries has been extended to 16 March. Full details and an entry form are available on the SLHS website at

On Behalf of the People: Coal, Community and Class in the British Coal Industry, 1947-1994
The project team of the On Behalf of the People: Coal, Community and Class in the British Coal Industry, 1947-1994 is inviting people to the Scottish coalfield event at Auchinleck Indoor Bowling Club, Auchinleck, East Ayrshire, on 23 March 2024, from 2pm and 4pm. Funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council – and partnering with the national mining museums in Scotland, England and Wales, as well as the General Federation of Trade Unions – the project has been exploring the history of nationalised coal from the perspective of the coalfields, viewed through eight colliery sites (and surrounding communities) in England, Scotland and Wales. More details on the project is available at… The event will feature the project exhibition, and share findings and interviews from miners and their families.  

Fighting for Justice: Strikes & Protests in Dumfries 1770-1920
Dumfries Museum launches a new exhibition this month which looks at some of the struggles of the organised working class of Dumfries and Maxwelltown across 150 years of its history – from the food riots of the later C18 down to the labour unrest of the early C20. Based on material from SLHS member Ian Gasse’s book, Mobbings, Struggles and Strikes (2022), the exhibition will feature walks, talks, Chartist songs, special weekends and a play reading, and runs to 4th September. See the Museum website for updates:

Booksellers, Blasphemy & Belief in C19 Scotland
The Edinburgh Bibliographical Society is hosting a lecture by Dr Felicity Loughlin of Edinburgh University on Booksellers, Blasphemy & Belief in Nineteenth Century Scotland on Thursday 18th April at 17:45 in the Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2LJ. Free. All welcome in person. It is presently uncertain if it will be on Zoom. Please contact SLHS Treasurer: on Monday 15th April for an update on this.